News Release

Most Office Workers Want Better Communication Tools

Brain Study Identifies Best Tools for Various Tasks
Oct 20, 2010

LONDON – October 19, 2010 - New research has revealed that two-thirds (66 percent) of U.K. office workers think that communication in their offices could be improved via the tools they use. Satisfaction falls as company size increases: Less than half (45 percent) of office workers in micro businesses¹ agree that their communication tools are very effective at enabling efficient working. This slides to 31 percent for small businesses² and to 16 percent for mid-sized companies³. However, enterprises⁴ buck this trend somewhat, with just over a quarter (26 percent) of their workers saying their tools are very effective.

The research, commissioned by Cisco, provider of Cisco WebExTM online meetings, combined quantitative research from Opinion Matters, which polled more than 1,000 U.K. office workers, and a study from Mindlab International. That study measured the brain activity of 24 workers whilst they conducted office-based tasks using four communication tools: telephone conferencing, instant messaging, video conferencing and Web conferencing.

In the majority of situations, the Mindlab International research found visual communication tools to be the most effective in a business environment, measured by accuracy, efficiency and user experience. Visual communication was followed by telephone conferencing and instant messaging; however, the research highlighted that each technology's performance varied depending on the type of task. 

"Far from this being a case of a 'poor workman blames his tools', our research found that each communication tool was effective for certain business-related tasks, but that these tools must be deployed in the right situation for maximum success," said Duncan Smith, managing director at Mindlab International.

Alongside communication not being at its best in U.K. businesses, the Opinion Matters survey also found that e-mail was the favoured way of passing off work to others. Forty percent of workers said that in the previous week a co-worker had used e-mail to delegate work that those co-workers should have done themselves.

"E-mail has a very valuable place in business and helps teams work well together; however, it does need to be supplemented with other methods of communication, which can sometimes be overlooked," said James Campanini, managing director for Cisco WebEx solutions in Europe, Middle East and Africa.

"Tools which are video-enabled, such as Web and video conferencing, help to build trust in the workplace, as communications are more interactive, engaging and personal," Campanini adds. "By being able to take in body language, eye contact and multi-way conversations, the business environment is automatically more collaborative, helping to speed up decision making. In addition, people should consider that one of the most powerful ways of communicating is by using a combination of tools."

Further Mindlab International findings
Brain activity (EEG)⁵ and skin conductance (EDA)⁶ were measured for three types of business tasks (broadly separated into categories involving visual data, factual and numerical information, and group collaboration). The research from Mindlab International found:

  • Instant messaging is a good tool for conveying simple segments of numerical data but should be avoided for group-based communications.
  • Telephone conferencing performed well on data-based tasks for accuracy and user experience, but was low on efficiency.
  •  Video conferencing scored high on user experience across all three categories, performing well for visual communication and group collaboration, but scored lower on accuracy and efficiency of data communications, as a text interface wasn't present.
  • Web conferencing performed well in conveying data and for group collaboration across accuracy, efficiency and user experience due to the participants' ability to share and edit documents in real time, but video conferencing was better suited to conveying visual data.


¹ 1-9 employees
² 10-249 employees
³ 500-999 employees
⁴ 1000+ employees
⁵ Electroencephalography – the recording of electrical activity of the brain.
⁶ Electrodermal activity – the electrical conductance of the skin as an indicator of stress.

Further Opinion Matters survey findings

  • The percentages of employees stating that the communication tools in their office are very effective at enabling highly efficient working are as follows:
    • 1-9 employees: 45 percent
    • 10-49 employees: 31 percent
    • 50-249 employees: 31 percent
    • 250-499 employees: 28 percent
    • 500-599: 16 percent
    • 1000+ employees: 26 percent

Notes to editors
A full summary of the results including graphs is available on request.